June 27, 2006

Being Childfree in a Baby-Centric World

Recently our church had a baby dedication. This was the 6th child for the family. We weren't actually there that day but got a copy of the service since the sermon topic was one that interested us. The whole service was on the CD. The elder doing the baby dedication started off with a statement about how nowadays kids are considered "burdens". He countered that by saying that children are blessings. It does say in the Bible that children are a blessing. And I agree with that statement.

"It's hard to live counter to the culture that we live in."

However, I also don't think that everyone is cut out for that type of blessing. Having good health is a blessing, having money is a blessing, and numerous other things are blessings. But not everyone is going to have every blessing. This type of thinking seems to me to lead down a road of "everyone should have children" mentality.

It's hard to live counter to the culture that we live in. It's hard to go upstream when everyone around us is going downstream. It makes me wonder how many people have had children just because it's expected. How many wish they had chosen not to?

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Teri said...

Twiga - This is most interesting. Thank you for sharing this recent experience as a childfree Christian couple. Some have faced this "everyone should have children mentality" and opted out of going to church, which I think is sad because churches do a good job of connecting people to each other and good things come from association.

My husband recently heard a news report that Americans at this moment in history are more isolated an ever, some only having one or two close friends they feel they can confide in.

“Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says; The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen”
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post
Friday, June 23, 2006; Page A03

I think what's closer to the truth is that children are both burden and blessing, and you have to take the good with the bad. And, if you don't have children you need to find your own support network.

NikkiJ said...

I would never say children aren't a blessing. They are for the vast majority of people. They can also be a burden, if, in spite of your best efforts they turn out to be just bad. There are many parents who'children give them sleepless nights and who are at their wits end, unable to do anything to change the path their child is going down.

The other problem I have is the intense focus in church circles of children being a blessing. If a woman doesn't have a child therefore, she thinks thats a curse, or she''s done something wrong. Because "being barren" is described as a curse. We then have an either or situation, encouraged by the church (who do fundamentally believe everyone should have children) with no middle ground, with every waking moment focussed on 1 - the fact that she can't conceive and 2-praying that she does. Until she does. It's been my experience that if a woman really wants a child, (within the church) it is almost impossible for her to accept the idea that the blessing of children is not for her. I know a woman who prayed for more than 10 years to get pregnant. May be she was not meant to. But who am I to say? There was no way she she was giving up hoping for her blessing.

Boxing Tomboy said...

My pastor is very child-centric, and he welcomes any opportunity to have a baby or child dedication during services. Children seem to only be a blessing for those who seem to have not had any major problems out of the ones they have. However, even parents who love their kids will mention they look forward to the time when the kids are out of the house.

Marti said...

"It makes me wonder how many people have had children just because it's expected? How many wish they had not chosen to?"

I think that society, as a whole, would be startled at the number of people who have had children: a)later wishing they hadn't and b)because they felt the pressure of society's conventions weighing down on them.

This is a big burden to carry with you throughout the rest of your life (or, at least, until your children become adults). We can only hope that not too many children suffer the consequences made by parents who don't have the courage to make their own choices.

We talk about peer pressure in schools...it seems to me that it is alive and well in the adult community.

Elise said...

The peer pressure that Marti mentions is very real.

Many of you are familiar, probably, with the column that Anne Landers writes? Well, if I'm not mistaken, Anne is generally thought of as fairly staid and conservative, the picture of middle-America --- not on the vanguard of social change at all.

However, she ran a poll (an unscientific one, but a poll nonetheless) of her readership. The question was "If you're a parent and you had it to do over again, would you?" 70% said no --- 70% of *Anne Landers* readership!!! Check out this link from the fab folks at Happily Childfree for more info:


I didn't find the 70% number so surprising, but what *is* depressing is how different the numbers were in the poll (where anonymity was guaranteed) from what you'd find if you polled parents in real life. I doubt more than 10% would admit to regretting parenthood if their anonymity weren't guaranteed.

So --- on top of the sleep deprivation, trashed social lives, and reduced economic prospects, parents apparently have to put up with as much peer pressure as is common in middle school, it seems. No wonder they can be hard on us about our choices; misery loves company, as they say, and perhaps one of the only things which makes it all bearable for them is that they think of it as a given in life.